This is one of the rare areas where the FDA does not control product ingredients. Manufacturers of tattoo ink are not required by the FDA or any other enforcement agency to list their ingredients. Some tattoo artists and all commercial manufacturers of tattoo ink mix their own concoction. The ink pigment is suspended in a variety of carrier solutions. Some of these solutions are made from plastic and some are made from vegetable dyes but most of them are made of metal salts. Neither the pigment itself nor the carrier concerns health officials. They are concerned with additional additives.
It is very important that any tattoo shop follows very strict safety precautions to prevent exposing their clients to infections and possibly disease. Fortunately, these days most shops follow very strict hygiene practices and take precaution as set out by their local and state health departments.
Some people experience an allergic reaction to some brands of ink from getting a tattoo. In most cases you should be able to check all pigment MSDS sheets to find out what possible reactions you may experience. The inks that are made with an ABS plastic pigment are very difficult to get removed if that person decides to get tattoo removal in the future. In most cases commercial tattoo ink is safe but people should be aware that ink pigment lacks any type of regulation. If you are suspicious that you may be allergic to tattoo ink it would be in your best interest to go to a reputable artist who can describe the components of the ink brand that he will use in your tattoo.
What are Pigment Carriers?
A pigment carrier keeps the pigment liquefied. It helps to ease the injection into the skin. The most common carriers include Listerine, witch hazel, purified water, glycerin, and ethyl alcohol. In the old days, toxic liquids and contaminated water were sometimes used with tattoo ink.
Tattoo machines create puncture wound in the surface of the skin to inject ink and form a tattoo. The ink is transported into the connective tissue of the skin.
During the process of getting a tattoo the skin experiences damage to the epidermis and the dermis. During the first week or two the ink is dispersed into only the upper region of the skin but after that time it becomes more concentrated as new tissue begins to form around the ink and traps it. As years pass it will begin to subside deeper into the dermis making any attempt at tattoo removal more difficult.